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Rome, Georgia
City
City of Rome
View of Rome from the historic Myrtle Hill Cemetery
View of Rome from the historic Myrtle Hill Cemetery
Location in Floyd County and the state of Georgia
Location in Floyd County and the state of Georgia
Country United States
State Georgia
County Floyd
Area
 • City 31.6 sq mi (81.9 km2)
 • Land 30.9 sq mi (80.1 km2)
 • Water 0.7 sq mi (1.9 km2)
Elevation 614 ft (187 m)
Population (2010)
 • City 36,303
 • Density 1,175/sq mi (453.5/km2)
 • Metro 96,317
Time zone EST (UTC-5)
 • Summer (DST) EDT (UTC-4)
Area code(s) 706/762
FIPS code 13-66668
GNIS feature ID 0356504
Website www.romefloyd.com

Rome is the largest city in and the county seat of Floyd County, Georgia, United States. Located in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, it is the principal city of the Rome, Georgia, Metropolitan Statistical Area, which encompasses all of Floyd County. At the 2010 census, the city had a population of 36,303. It is the largest city in Northwest Georgia and the 19th largest city in the state.

Rome was built at the confluence of the Etowah and the Oostanaula rivers, forming the Coosa River. Because of its strategic advantages, this area was long occupied by the Creek and later the Cherokee people. National leaders such as Major Ridge and John Ross resided here before Indian Removal.

The city has developed on seven hills with the rivers running between them, a feature that inspired the early European-American settlers to name it for Rome, the longtime capital of Italy. It developed in the antebellum period as a market and trading city due to its advantageous location on the rivers, by which it sent the rich regional cotton commodity crop downriver to markets on the Gulf Coast and export overseas.

It is the second largest city, after Gadsden, Alabama, near the center of the triangular area defined by the Interstate highways between Atlanta, Birmingham and Chattanooga. It has developed as a regional center in such areas as medical care and education. In addition to its public school system, there are several private schools. Higher-level institutions include private Berry College and Shorter University, and the public Georgia Northwestern Technical College and Georgia Highlands College.

In the late 1920s a United States company built a rayon plant in a joint project with an Italian company. This project and the American city of Rome were honored by Italy in 1929, when its dictator Benito Mussolini sent a replica of the statue of Romulus and Remus nursing from a mother wolf, a symbol of the founding myth of the original Rome. Residents frequently reference the unofficial mottos of the town, "There's no place like Rome" and "Rome is Home".

Geography

Rome Georgia's 7 Hills and 3 Rivers
Rome's 7 hills and 3 rivers
Tristate location of Rome Georgia
Location of Rome and major highways

Rome is located at the confluence of the Etowah and the Oostanaula rivers, whose merging forms the Coosa River. This gave it access to the waterways, the major transportation routes of the era. Because of this water feature, Rome developed as a regional trade center, based originally on King Cotton. As cotton plantations were developed in the area, Rome was an increasingly important market town, shipping the commodity downriver to other markets. It was designated as the county seat of Floyd County.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 31.6 square miles (81.9 km2), of which 30.9 square miles (80.1 km2) is land and 0.73 square miles (1.9 km2), or 2.29%, is water.

The seven hills that inspired the name of Rome are known as Blossom, Jackson, Lumpkin, Mount Aventine, Myrtle, Old Shorter, and Neely hills. (The latter is also known as Tower or Clock Tower Hill). Some of the hills have been partially graded since Rome was founded.

History

Native American era

People of the Mississippian culture are known to have inhabited the area from about 1000 CE. These people are believed to have died off from disease brought by exposure to the Spaniards in the late 16th century. The Cherokee migrated into the Southeast and established themselves in the early 17th century.

Specifics before the Spanish expeditions in the 16th century are largely unknown, but archeologists have found evidence of thousands of years of indigenous cultures along these rivers.

Native American Territories, SE section, North America, 1715
Native American territories in the Southeastern area of North America in 1715. State outlines are from later times.

There is some debate over whether Hernando de Soto was the first Spanish conquistador to encounter Native Americans in the area now known as Rome, but it is usually agreed that he passed through the region with his expedition in 1540. In 1560, Tristán de Luna sent a detachment of 140 soldiers and two Dominican friars north along de Soto's route. They established relations with the Coosa chiefdom, as they recorded assisting the Coosa in a raid against the rebellious province of Napochín, in what is now known as Tennessee. Exposed to new Eurasian infectious diseases, these mound builder peoples suffered high mortality rates, as they lacked immunity; within 20 years the community was abandoned.

The Creek emerged in the area, one of the major Muscogee-speaking tribes. They occupied a broad territory before being pushed out by Cherokee migrating from Tennessee.

The Abihka tribe of Creek in the area of Rome later became part of the Upper Creek people. They merged with other Creek tribes to become the Ulibahalis, who later migrated westward into Alabama in the general region of Gadsden. By the mid-18th century, Iroquoian-speaking Cherokee had moved into the area and occupied it. They had moved down from areas of Tennessee, under pressure from settlement by European Americans migrating from eastern territories across the Appalachians.

A Cherokee village named Chatuga was settled in this area during the late eighteenth century, in the period of the Cherokee–American wars (1776–94) during and after the American Revolutionary War. The Cherokee referred to this area as "Head of Coosa". Several Cherokee national leaders settled here, developing plantations, including chiefs Major Ridge and John Ross. In the 20th century, Ridge's home here was preserved as Chieftains House. It has been adapted by the state for use as the Chieftains Museum and is used to represent the history of the Cherokee in this area, especially Major Ridge.

In the 18th century, a high demand in Europe for American deer skins had led to a brisk trade between Native hunters and white traders. A few white traders and some settlers (primarily from the British colonies of Georgia and Carolina) were accepted by the Head of Coosa Cherokee. These were later joined by missionaries, and then more settlers. After the American War of Independence, most new settlers came from the area of Georgia east of the Proclamation Line of 1763.

Yazoo-Georgia Controversy
1802 map of Georgia-Yazoo lands. The triangular section labeled "Assigned to Georgia 1802" was Cherokee land claimed as part of the Compact of 1802 between Georgia and the United States.

In 1793, in response to a Cherokee raid into Tennessee, John Sevier, the Governor of Tennessee, led a retaliatory raid against the Cherokee in the vicinity of Myrtle Hill, in what was known as the Battle of Hightower.

In 1802, the United States and Georgia executed the Compact of 1802, in which Georgia sold its claimed Western lands (a claim dating to the colonial era) to the United States. In return, the federal government agreed to ignore Cherokee land titles and remove all Cherokee from Georgia. The commitment to evict the Cherokee was not immediately enforced, and Chiefs John Ross and Major Ridge led efforts to stop their removal, including several Federal lawsuits.

During the 1813 Creek Civil War, most Cherokee took the side of the Upper Creek Indians, who were more assimilated and willing to deal with European Americans, against the Red Stick or Lower Creek Indians, who lived more distant from the whites and maintained strong cultural traditions. Before the Cherokee moved to Head of Coosa, Chief Ridge commanded a company of warriors as a unit of the Tennessee militia, with Chief Ross as adjutant. This Cherokee unit was under the overall command of United States Major Andrew Jackson, and supported the Upper Creek. They were the part of the Creek who had adopted more European-American customs and were more aligned with American settlers. The Red Stick Creek lived in a more geographically removed area and held more closely to traditional Creek life. The Creek War played out within the US-British conflict of the War of 1812.

Cherokee1822
1822 map of Cherokee lands in Georgia

In 1829, European Americans discovered gold near Dahlonega, Georgia, starting the first gold rush in the United States. Congressional passage of the Indian Removal Act of 1830, which fulfilled the Compact of 1802, was related to that gold discovery and the desire of whites to settle the land, as well as President Andrew Jackson's commitment to removal.

Even before removal began, in 1831 Georgia's General Assembly passed legislation that claimed all Cherokee land in Northwest Georgia. This entire territory was called Cherokee County; the following year the Assembly organized the territory as the nine counties that still exist in the 21st century.

City founding period

Rome was founded in 1834 as European Americans increasingly settled in Georgia. Founders were Col. Daniel R. Mitchell, Col. Zacharia Hargrove, Maj. Philip Hemphill, Col. William Smith, and John Lumpkin (nephew of Governor Lumpkin); most were veterans of the War of 1812. They held a drawing to determine the name of the new city, with Col. Mitchell submitting the name of Rome because of the area's hills and rivers. Mitchell's submission was drawn, and the Georgia Legislature chartered Rome as an official city in 1835. The county seat was subsequently moved east from the village of Livingston to Rome.

With the entire area still occupied primarily by Cherokee, the city developed to serve the agrarian needs of the new cotton-based economy. Invention of the cotton gin in the late eighteenth century made processing of short-staple cotton profitable. This was the type of cotton that best thrived in the upland areas, in contrast to that grown on the Sea Islands and in the Low Country.

Much of upland Georgia was developed as what became known as the Black Belt, named for the fertile soil. Planters brought or purchased many enslaved African Americans as workers for the labor-intensive crop. The leading Cherokee participated in the cultivation of cotton as a commodity crop, which soon replaced deer-skin trading as a source of wealth in the region. The first steamboat navigated the Coosa River to Rome in 1836, reducing the time-to-market for the cotton trade and speeding travel between Rome and New Orleans on the Gulf Coast, the major port for export of cotton.

By 1838, the Cherokee had run out of legal options in resisting removal. They were the last of the major Southeast tribes to be forcibly moved to the Indian Territories (in modern-day Oklahoma) on the Trail of Tears. After the removal of the Cherokee, their homes and businesses were taken over by whites, with much of the property distributed through a land lottery.

The Rome economy continued to grow. In 1849, an 18-mile (29 km) rail spur to the Western and Atlantic Railroad in Kingston was completed, significantly improving transportation to the east. This route was later followed in the 20th-century construction of Georgia Highway 293. By 1860 the population had reached 4,010 in the city, and 15,195 in the county.

Civil war period

Rome, Georgia, in 1864
Rome in 1864, during the occupation by Union forces

Rome's iron works were an important manufacturing center during the Civil War, supplying many cannons and other armaments to the Confederate effort. In April 1863 the city was defended by Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest against Union Colonel Abel Streight's "lightning mule" raid from the area east of modern-day Cedar Bluff, Alabama. General Forrest tricked Colonel Streight into surrendering just a few miles shy of Rome. Realizing their vulnerability, Rome's city council had allocated $3,000 to build three fortifications. Although these became operational by October 1863, efforts to strengthen the forts continued as the war progressed. These forts were named after Romans who had been killed in action: Fort Attaway was on the western bank of the Oostanaula River, Fort Norton was on the eastern bank of the Oostanaula, and Fort Stovall was on the southern bank of the Etowah River. The Confederates later built at least one other fort on the northern side of the Coosa River.

Thornwood
The historic Thornwood mansion was occupied by Union troops during the Civil War. The house is now part of the Darlington School Campus.
Sherman and his Officers in Rome, Georgia
Vandever and his officers in Rome (1864, on East 4th Ave)

In May 1864, Union General Jefferson C. Davis, under the command of Major General William Tecumseh Sherman, attacked and captured Rome when the outflanked Confederate defenders retreated under command of Major General Samuel Gibbs French. Union General William Vandever was stationed in Rome and is shown with his staff in a photograph taken there. Due to Rome's forts and iron works, which included the manufacture of cannons, Rome was a significant target during Sherman's march through Georgia to take and destroy Confederate resources. Davis' forces occupied Rome for several months, making repairs to use the damaged forts and briefly quartering General Sherman. Foreshadowing Sherman's Special Field Orders, No. 120, Union forces destroyed Rome's forts, iron works, the rail line to Kingston, and any other material that could be useful to the South's war effort as they withdrew from Rome to participate in the Atlanta Campaign.

Reconstruction era and 19th century

Rome,Ga
Along the Oostanaula River are the historic Floyd County Courthouse and spire (left) and the Clock Tower (right) on Neely Hill.

In 1871, Rome constructed a water tank on Neely Hill, which overlooks the downtown district. This later was adapted as a clock tower visible from many points in the city. It has served as the town's iconic landmark ever since, and is featured in the city's crest and local business logos. As a result, Neely Hill is also referred to as Tower or Clock Tower Hill. In this period the city established its first public schools, authorized by the state legislature in 1868 for the first time for all children, with some designated funding. Schools were segregated and tended to have short sessions limited by funding. Freedmen had the power to vote under new amendments to the US Constitution, affecting local politics. The abolition of slavery required new labor arrangements.

Due to its riverside location, Rome has occasionally suffered serious flooding. The flood of 1886 inundated the city to such depth that a steamboat traveled down Broad Street. In 1891, upon recommendation of the United States Army Corps of Engineers, the Georgia State Legislature amended Rome's charter to create a commission to oversee the construction of river levees to protect the town against future floods. In the late 1890s, additional flood control measures were instituted, including raising the height of Broad Street by about 15 feet (4.6 m). As a result, the original entrances and ground-level floors of many of Rome's historic buildings became covered over and had to serve as basements.

Twentieth century

Rome Bust Terminal
Sign at the Rome bus station from 1943

In the early 20th century, the Georgia Assembly approved a charter for the city to establish a commission-manager form of government, a reform idea to add a management professional to the team.

In 1928, the American Chatillon Company began construction of a rayon plant in Rome; it was a joint business effort with the Italian Chatillon Corporation. Italian premier Benito Mussolini sent a block of marble from the ancient Roman Forum, inscribed "From Old Rome to New Rome", to be used as the cornerstone of the new rayon plant. After the rayon plant was completed in 1929, Mussolini honored the American Rome with a bronze replica of the sculpture of Romulus and Remus nursing from the Capitoline Wolf. The statue was placed in front of City Hall on a base of white marble from Tate, Georgia, with a brass plaque inscribed:

"This statue of the Capitoline Wolf, as a forecast of prosperity and glory, has been sent from Ancient Rome to New Rome during the consulship of Benito Mussolini in the year 1929."

In 1940, anti-Italian sentiment due to World War II became so strong that the Rome city commission moved the statue into storage to prevent vandalism. They replaced it with an American flag. In 1952, the city restored the statue to its former location in front of City Hall.

Great Depression

In Rome, the effect of the Great Depression was significantly less severe than in other, larger cities across the United States. Since Rome was an agricultural town, food could be grown in surrounding areas. Rome's textile mill continued operating, providing steady jobs as a buffer against the hardships of the Great Depression.

The Great Depression was preceded by the "Cotton Bust" across the South. This reached Rome in the mid-1920s, and caused many farmers to move away, sell their land or convert to other agricultural crops, such as corn. Farm workers were displaced, and many African Americans left the area in the Great Migration, seeking work in cities, including those in the North and Midwest. Cotton crops were being destroyed by the boll weevil, a tiny bug that reached Georgia in 1915 (invading from Louisiana). The boll weevil destroyed many fields of cotton and put a damper on Rome's economy.

While the Rome area was not as devastated as many big cities during the Depression, many families struggled through hard financial times. Jobs were scarce, and prices of food and basic commodities went up. The federal "postal employees took a fifteen per cent cut in pay, and volunteered a further ten per cent reduction in work time in order to save the jobs of substitute employees who otherwise would have been thrown out of work." Among fundraising activities for the poor, wealthier residents bought tickets to a show put on by local performers; the fares were paid to grocers, who made boxes of food to sell at a discount price to needy families.

In a private "works project" to provide employment to men out of work, S.H. Smith, Sr. decided to replace the Armstrong Hotel. After demolishing it, he employed many people to help build the towering Greystone Hotel at the corner of Broad Street and East Second Street. The Rome News-Tribune reported on November 30, 1933, an increase in local building permits for a total of $95,800; of this amount, $85,000 was invested by S.H. Smith, Sr., in the construction of the Greystone Hotel. He added the Greystone Apartments in 1936.

Arts and culture

RomeGeorgia
1930s WPA mural depicting several landmarks around Rome, at the US Post Office
  • Martha Berry Museum, honoring a founder of Berry College
  • Rome Area History Museum
  • Chieftains Museum (Major Ridge Home), a museum of Cherokee history, honoring chief Major Ridge and other leaders
  • Clock Tower, a clock tower museum
  • Rome Braves, a Class A affiliate of the Atlanta Braves

Sites on the National Register of Historic Places

Rome has many historic homes and businesses, some of which are listed on the National Register of Historic Places:

Site Year
built
Address Year
registered
Dr. Robert Battey House 1850 725 East 2nd Ave. 1982
Berry Schools North of Rome on U.S. Hwy 27 1978
Between the Rivers Historic District Roughly bounded by the Etowah and Oostanaula rivers, 7th Ave., and West 4th St. 1983
Ext. 1989
Chieftains 1792 501 Riverside Parkway. 1971
Double-Cola Bottling Company 419 East Second Ave. 2006
East Rome Historic District Roughly bounded by Walnut Ave., McCall Blvd., East 8th and 10th Sts. 1985
Etowah Indian Mounds North bank of Etowah River 1966
Floyd County Courthouse 5th Ave. and Tribune St. 1980
Jackson Hill Historic District Jackson Hill, between GA Hwy 53 and the Oostanaula River 1997
Joseph Ford House Address Restricted 1980
Lower Avenue A Historic District Avenue A between North 5th St. and Turner-McCall Blvd. 1983
Main High School 41 Washington Dr. 2002
Mayo's Bar Lock and Dam On the Coosa River, 8 miles SW of Rome 1989
Mt. Aventine Historic District Address restricted 1983
Myrtle Hill Cemetery 1857 Bounded by S. Broad, and Myrtle Sts., Pennington, and Branham Aves. 1983
Oakdene Place Roughly bounded by the Etowah River, Queen, and East 6th Sts. 1983
Rome Clock Tower 1871 Corner of East 2nd Street and East 5th Avenue 1980
South Broad Street Historic District South Broad St. and Etowah Terrace 1983
Sullivan—Hillyer House 309 East 2nd Ave. 2002
Thankful Baptist Church 935 Spiderwebb Dr. 1985
U.S. Post Office and Courthouse West 4th Ave. and East 1st St. 1975
Upper Avenue A Historic District Roughly bounded by Oostanaula River, Turner-McCall Blvd., Avenue B and W. 11th St. 1983

Demographics

Historical population
Census Pop.
1860 4,010
1870 2,748 −31.5%
1880 3,877 41.1%
1890 6,957 79.4%
1900 7,291 4.8%
1910 12,099 65.9%
1920 13,252 9.5%
1930 21,843 64.8%
1940 26,282 20.3%
1950 29,615 12.7%
1960 32,336 9.2%
1970 30,759 −4.9%
1980 29,654 −3.6%
1990 30,326 2.3%
2000 34,980 15.3%
2010 36,303 3.8%
Est. 2015 36,323 0.1%
U.S. Decennial Census

At the 2000 census, there were 34,980 people, 13,320 households and 8,431 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,190.5 per square mile (459.7/km²). There were 14,508 housing units at an average density of 493.7 per square mile (190.7/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 63.12% White, 27.66% African American, 1.42% Asian, 0.39% Native American, 0.16% Pacific Islander, 5.61% from other races, and 1.64% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 10.35% of the population.

There were 13,320 households of which 29.1% had children under the age of 18 living in them, 41.2% were married couples living together, 17.0% had a female householder with no husband present, wend 36.7% are non-families. 30.9% of all households were made up of individuals and 14.1% have someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.47 and the average family size was 3.07.

The age distribution was 24.2% under the age of 18, 12.1% from 18 to 24, 27.7% from 25 to 44, 20.1% from 45 to 64, and 15.9% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 35 years. For every 100 females there were 90.2 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 86.2 males.

The median household income was $30,930, and the median family income was $37,775. Males had a median income of $30,179 versus $22,421 for females. The per capita income for the city was $17,327. About 15.3% of families and 20.3% of the population were below the poverty line, including 29.1% of those under the age of 18 and 16.3% of those 65 and older.

Climate

The climate in this area is characterized by relatively high temperatures and evenly distributed precipitation throughout the year. According to the Köppen Climate Classification system, Rome has a humid subtropical climate, abbreviated "Cfa" on climate maps.

Climate data for Rome, Georgia
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 11.7
(53)
14.4
(58)
16.7
(62)
23.3
(74)
27.8
(82)
31.7
(89)
32.8
(91)
32.8
(91)
29.4
(85)
23.3
(74)
16.7
(62)
11.7
(53)
22.8
(73)
Average low °C (°F) -0.6
(31)
1.1
(34)
3.3
(38)
7.8
(46)
12.8
(55)
17.2
(63)
19.4
(67)
18.9
(66)
15.6
(60)
8.3
(47)
1.7
(35)
-0.6
(31)
8.9
(48)
Precipitation mm (inches) 124
(4.9)
135
(5.3)
147
(5.8)
109
(4.3)
102
(4)
97
(3.8)
124
(4.9)
79
(3.1)
107
(4.2)
71
(2.8)
81
(3.2)
137
(5.4)
1,306
(51.4)
Source: Weatherbase

twin sister towns

Rome was a twins with Carrick on Shannon, Ireland since 1967

Gallery

  • Roger Aycock, All Roads to Rome, Georgia: W. H. Wolfe Associates, 1981. Amazon.com
  • George Magruder Battey Jr., A History of Rome and Floyd County, Georgia 1540-1922, Georgia: Cherokee Publishing Company, 2000. Amazon.com
  • Morrell Johnson Darko, The Rivers Meet: A History of African-Americans in Rome, Georgia, Darko, 2003. Amazon.com
  • Jerry R. Desmond, Georgia's Rome: A Brief History, Charleston: The History Press, 2008. Amazon.com
  • Sesquicentennial Committee of the City of Rome, Rome and Floyd County: An Illustrated History, The Delmar Co 1986.Amazon.com
  • Orlena M. Warner, When in Rome..., Georgia: Steven Warner, 1972. A collection of poems. Amazon.com

Template:Georgia (U.S. state)


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